4 Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due.
5 And to the one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness (ESV)
Thought #1: It is an affront to God to try to pay in any way for the grace which He has extended. If you want to pay at all, you must pay the full price. Let’s suppose you have a friend who is an artist. He makes his living by selling paintings at a local art show. And let’s say that your friend is quite good, and most of his paintings sell for several thousand dollars each. One day you visit with your friend at the art show and he – out of the blue – takes one of his paintings off of its stand and gives it to you as a gift. Do you offer to pay him $20 for the painting? No, of course not. Offering an artist $20 for a work of art worth $2000 is a slap in face. In the same way, anything you offer to God in attempt to pay for his free gift of grace is a slap in God’s face. What could you possibly begin to pay that would match the value of the grace of God? In the words of Isaac Watts from the hymn “When I survey the Wondrous Cross”:
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small:
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.
And just so we know, what would be the full price to pay for what God offers to us freely? Read a couple of verses and you will get the idea:
Matthew 5:20 “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (ESV)
Matthew 5:48 “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (ESV)
James 2:10 “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.” (ESV)
There is a Biblical precedent for this idea. Do you remember the story of Simon the Sorcerer from Acts chapter 8. When he saw the gift of the Holy Spirit being given through the work of the Apostles, he offered them money to be able to do the same. Here is the exchange between Simon the Sorcerer and Simon Peter the Apostle from Acts 8:18-21:
18 Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money,
19 saying, “Give me this power also, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”
20 But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money!
21 You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. (ESV)
Thought #2: Here is a related but kind of different thought. It is also an affront to God to think that He extends grace as a payment for our good works. Consider the parable of the workers in the vineyard found in Matthew 20:1-16:
1 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard.
2 After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard.
3 And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the marketplace,
4 and to them he said, ‘You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.’
5 So they went. Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same.
6 And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing. And he said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’
7 They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’ 8 And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’
9 And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius.
10 Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius.
11 And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house,
12 saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’
13 But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius?
14 Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you.
15 Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’
16 So the last will be first, and the first last.” (ESV)
Did the workers hired for the last hour of the day deserve a denarius, full payment for working an entire day? No, of course not. It was the grace of the owner of the vineyard that they received pay for a full day’s work. But there is something more to see than that. It was also grace that they were hired to work at all. Likewise for the laborers who were hired first thing in the morning. The fact that they were given a job at all was all by the grace of the owner of the vineyard. So it is for those who are part of God’s kingdom. Some have been laboring hard for God for years. But what they will receive is just as much from grace as the person who repents on their deathbed. No one is ever paid eternal life, it is a free gift. Romans 6:23 says “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (ESV) And Ephesians 2:8-9 says “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (ESV) No one in heaven will be talking about what they did to earn their salvation.
By Berean Husband